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‘Most difficult winter in NHS history’ could continue into spring, hospital leaders warn

PUBLISHED: 13:34 26 March 2018 | UPDATED: 13:34 26 March 2018

Jon Green, the Chief Executive of The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn. Photo: The Queen Elizabeth Hospital

Jon Green, the Chief Executive of The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn. Photo: The Queen Elizabeth Hospital

The Queen Elizabeth Hospital

High numbers of unwell patients combined with staff sickness and shortage mean the fall-out from the “most difficult winter in NHS history” could continue into spring, hospital leaders have warned.

A line of ambulances waiting outside the A&E Department at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn. Picture: Ian BurtA line of ambulances waiting outside the A&E Department at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn. Picture: Ian Burt

In papers prepared for a board of directors meeting at the King’s Lynn Queen Elizabeth Hospital (QEH) tomorrow (Tuesday, March 27), chairman Edward Libbey said: “The past three months have been widely recognised as the most difficult winter in the NHS history.

“Not only has the clinical situation been challenging but this has been coupled with significant flu in both patients and staff.”

That, chief executive Jon Green warned, has “resulted in longer emergency department waits than we want for any of our patients”, with the four-hour target treatment time for accident and emergency admissions as low as 66.4pc in some weeks.

However the hospital’s monthly performance stood at 79.89pc at March 19, putting the hospital second out of six trusts in the East of England as each hospital battled poor weather conditions.

A Theatre at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn. Photo: The Queen Elizabeth HospitalA Theatre at The Queen Elizabeth Hospital in King's Lynn. Photo: The Queen Elizabeth Hospital

The QEH is also investigating a marked increase in the number of falls in the hospital during February, including one patient who died after suffering a brain injury following a fall.

Senior managers and board members are set to discuss the QEH’s performance over the past month at the meeting tomorrow.

In his report ahead of the meeting, Mr Green added: “The daffodils, which are popping up all over the place, may be harbingers of spring - but winter continues at the QE.

“We have continued to see high numbers of very sick patients and high admission rates. This is combined with our own staff sickness and consequential staffing challenges.

“Our entire healthcare system has been feeling the pressure.”

However he praised staff who “pull out all the stops” and added: “I am so grateful to and proud of our teams and individual staff.

“These are difficult times and our staff continue to demonstrate their ongoing commitment to our patients, every day.”

In particular a new ambulance handover protocol has been put in place to ensure patients are offloaded from ambulances into the hospital as soon as possible.

The QEH has employed its own paramedic, who works between 10am and 10pm to “facilitate rapid ambulance turnaround”.

It has also started a “daily huddle” for A&E staff to raise any issues and is bringing in a “patient navigator” role to help ensure people are seen as quickly as possible.


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